Yet another entry in the “long-term project” list: The Arrow of Time project by Argentinian photographer Diego Goldberg. Every year on June 17, Goldberg and his family members make an individual head-and-shoulders portrait of him-or-herself and place them on a timeline.
1976. Diego and Susy.
Over the years, the timeline has expanded to include the addition of spouses, children and grandchildren as they were born.
1984. Diego, Susy, Nicolas, Matias, Sebastian.
One of the most interesting aspects of this project is that the pictures are presented vertically, thus allowing the viewer to look at the face of only one person at a time through the years. At the same time that the viewer’s eyes take this in, one is still completely aware of the other faces on the periphery of one’s vision. It’s almost as if the others are lurking, daring you to see them.
2014. Diego, Susy, Nicolas, Matias, Sebastian.
Another aspect of this work that intrigues me is the singularity of the family members. They relate to each other only because each photograph in any given year is placed adjacent to the others, not because they coexist in the same physical space the way that Nicholas Nixon’s “The Brown Sisters” do. Goldberg and his family members each stare out at the viewer, giving us no sense of their connection to each other.
This project is a great example of how the presentation of photographs can create meaning, and how repetition can do the same.
My recent posts on Lucy Hilmer’s work and on long-term projects are obvious clues to what is on my mind recently, photographically speaking. It therefore feels only fitting that I write today about “The Brown Sisters” project by Nicholas Nixon, for which Nixon has taken a photograph of his wife and her three sisters once a year for the past 40 years.
1975, New Canaan, Conn.
I have been aware of Nixon’s entire body of work for a long time now, and have been intrigued by “The Brown Sisters” series, specifically, as it has unfolded over the years. The New York Times recently published an article about this series, which will be published in a book in November.
2014, Wellfleet, Mass.
Seeing Nixon’s pictures in the Times article and reading the accompanying text make me consider exactly what it is that I am trying to do in my own long-term projects. More specifically, they bring up a question I ask myself frequently: “How are my own long-term projects different from those of other artists?”
Are they really different? If so, in what way? What distinguishes my work from any of the other long-term portrait or self-portrait projects that are out there? It’s critical for me to answer these questions, and I’m glad that I have plenty of time to think about them as I work on gathering and editing the various projects that I’ve been working on over the years.
Do I have answers to these questions at this time? No. Will I ever answer them? Maybe. But forcing myself to at least address them is a healthy and necessary part of my creative process.
My last post mentioned the work of Lucy Hilmer, whose website shows examples of three bodies of work she made that were shot over long periods of time. Seeing her work has made me think a lot about the fact that I also have three long-term projects going that have never seen the light of day. They are:
1. My “birthday” series. Every year on my birthday I put my camera on a tripod and shoot either one roll of 36-exposure film or 36 digital images that show what I do that day from the moment I get up in the morning to the moment I go to bed that night.
2. My “post-partum” series. This series actually began while I was pregnant, when I photographed a nude self-portrait once a month for the duration of the pregnancy. I wanted to track what my body looked like as the months progressed. After giving birth, I was fascinated by the changes the pregnancy had wrought to my body, and wondered how it would age over time. So every year on the anniversary of the birth, I take a nude full-length self-portrait in front of a white backdrop: one from the front, one from the right side, one from the back, and one from the left side.
3. My “sister-in-law” series. This series started the year before my sister-in-law got pregnant. I took a shot of her in front of her house one summer. The next summer, she was nine months pregnant and I thought it would be interesting to pose her in the same spot. The next year, I thought it would be fun to pose her with her and her toddler. And all of a sudden, a series was born. All three of her children are now grown and out of the house, but every summer I am back there, posing her in front of her house, and thinking of how much time and history have passed since I started.
I haven’t exhibited any of those series- I am making them just because I want to make them- but enough time has gone by now that I going to start taking a more serious look at them, both as discreet bodies of work in and of themselves, but also in comparison to each other. It’s another way to discover what I have been thinking and saying as an artist over long periods of time.